How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Vocalist Erin Bode's debut, Don't Take Your Time (MAXJAZZ, 2001), showcased her abilities to coat jazz singing with a user-friendly, pop-oriented patina, but subsequent albums have taken her farther afield from the world of straightforward jazz vocals. Bode showed early promise as a singer/songwriter, with the title track on her debut release, and she's made good on that promise on Over And Over (MAXJAZZ, 2006) and The Little Garden (Native Language, 2008).
Both of those albums put strong emphasis on Bode-as-writer, with the latter leaning toward a folk-based sound sporting modern production values, and she continues that trend with Photograph. Her original compositions resemble prior works in some ways, but Bode uses far different instrumental textures to deliver some of this material. Occasional songs, like "Joseph" and the album-closing "Wise Man," sound like they could be carryovers from The Little Garden sessions, but those tracks are the exception, not the rule.
The biggest game-changer, in terms of sound, comes in the form of the DX7. Yamaha unveiled this synthesizer in the early '80s, and the sound of this machine came to epitomize the direction of many a pop artist during that era. Multi-instrumentalist Adam ManessBode's prime collaborator and co-writer on all eleven tracksadds this instrument to his arsenal on three tunes, lending them a retro-'80s pop sheen. Bode fans who have enjoyed soaking in the earthy elements of her prior albums might not take to the slightly sugary "Heart Of Mine" or "Stephanie Moore," but the DX7 doesn't dominate the entire album, and it provides some complementary additions to "Beating On The Door."
At other times, Bode strikes a balance between Nanci Griffith and Lisa Loeb ("Wise Man"), and shows Paul Simon
-esque compositional savvy on "The Letter," where Adam Maness acts as a sound architect, his marimba and guitar work at the core of the group sound. Bode's voice is an emotionally resonant instrument of beauty on "November," and Maness is a masterful accompanist, cushioning Bode's voice with guitar and a bed of subtle synthesizer sounds. While this album is the least jazz-oriented production of Bode's career, her celestial vocals remain a draw in any genre and she hits quite a few along the way on Photograph.
Track Listing: The Mountain; Heart Of Mine; To Lose; Stephanie Moore; November; The Letter; Joseph; Photograph; Beating On The Door; Telescope; Wise Man.
Personnel: Erin Bode: vocals, whistle; Adam Maness: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, marimba, glockenspiel, DX7, synthesizers, accordion, road case, 750 piece 'Christmas Magic' puzzle, electric piano, phone; Syd Rodway: acoustic bass, banjo, electric bass, whistle, acoustic guitar, background vocals; Mark Colenburg: drums and percussion (1, 11); Jimmy Griffin: electric guitar (2, 4); Derek Phillips: drums and percussion (2-4, 6-9, 10); Seamus Blake: saxophone (4); Chris Hobson: hand claps (9), background vocals (6-7, 11).